To bridge the digital divide, Corning and AT&T will train thousands of technicians

You want to connect all Americans with high-speed internet service and bridge the digital divide? Then it’s time to have a conversation about workforce training.

Highly trained workers are needed and needed quickly. There is a surge in network building across the U.S. as the private sector is investing heavily in broadband. For example, AT&T’s capital investment for 2021 totaled $21.6 billion, with much of it dedicated to fiber and 5G. In addition, local governments are contracting with the private sector to build out broadband connectivity. These local officials are taking advantage of tens of billions of federal dollars available to build networks.

In fact, the U.S. telecom industry expects to create an additional 850,000 jobs through 2025, according to a coalition of industry associations.

If we’re going to build great networks, then we need a great workforce.

That’s why AT&T and Corning Incorporated have joined forces to create a new training program focused on equipping thousands of technicians and network specialists across the industry with the skills crucial to design, engineer, install, and manage a growing fiber broadband network across the U.S.

The Fiber Optic Training Program will be led by experts across the industry, housed in Corning facilities in North Carolina, and serve needs across the country.  The program includes training on optical fiber and networking, network design, hands-on splicing, connectorization, field construction for cable deployment, testing, and system turn-up. The training program will also include network system lab visits, and technician ride-alongs. Upon completion, trainees will be ready to fill needed roles at carriers, construction firms, and broadband providers.

The program is expected to be available in time to support the historic government investments outlined in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

(WATCH: Broadband expansion: A historic opportunity)

Collaborating with Corning, the largest manufacturer of fiber optic cable in the U.S., will help AT&T get closer to reaching its goal of reaching 30 million locations with fiber by 2025, alongside other providers working to bring broadband access to more Americans than ever before.

Steve Mitchell, senior vice president, Carrier Networks at Corning Optical Communications told me: “As the industry is currently experiencing a shortage of technicians and installers, this training will support future needs and help build the skilled workforce of tomorrow.”

AT&T and Corning will work with local community organizations to recruit trainees from a variety of diverse backgrounds and geographic locations.

This training program expands Corning and AT&T’s relationship, building upon the previously announced plans to extend investments in fiber infrastructure, expand U.S. broadband networks and accelerate 5G deployment through AT&T’s long-term commitment to its network build and Corning’s investment of $150 million in optical cable manufacturing in North Carolina, initially adding 200 jobs.

Working together, we can help connect all Americans by building the best networks for today and tomorrow using amazing fiber-optic technology. Fiber offers consumers and businesses multi-gig speeds and a path to even faster speeds in the future. This connectivity can transform education, business and healthcare.

AT&T is in the midst of a three-year, $2 billion pledge to help bridge the digital divide through low-cost broadband offerings and charitable contributions. It’s a big commitment.

Working with key suppliers like Corning, we can help narrow the digital divide and help bridge the talent gap for high-tech workers. And the benefits of that will pay off for years to come.

Jeff Luong is President, Broadband Access and Adoption Initiatives for AT&T. He is responsible for leading AT&T’s efforts to help bridge the digital divide by working with state, county and city governments. Jeff and his team coordinate efforts with AT&T’s Network, Product and External and Legislative Affairs teams to create best-in-class broadband solutions for government entities. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and two daughters. Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from UCLA and a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Corporate Finance from the University of Southern California.